Two of the UK’s biggest food businesses hailed momentum today, but one company’s was strikingly more evident than the other.

While wholesaler Booker was rightly high-fiving and back-patting after a 15% jump in full-year pre-tax profit, embattled grocer Asda was lauding the “momentum” of a 2.8% drop in first-quarter sales.

Admittedly, the supermarket giant’s start to the year marked a stemming in the rate of sales decline – like-for-likes tumbled 5.7% in the comparable period last year.

But can decline-on-decline — and a fall in shopper numbers — really be described as “momentum”?

Boss Sean Clarke has a gigantic mountain to climb and although he has ushered in improvements in service, availability and price, Asda is still very much at base camp.

Clarke himself admitted today “there is still much for us to do.”

Yet if Asda really does have the momentum it claims, the summer should bring a ray or two of sunlight at the end of a dark tunnel.

August’s second-quarter sales update should see Asda return to sales growth, against a miserable like-for-like comparable of -7.5% and a later Easter to factor into the equation.

If it doesn’t, Asda’s road to recovery could be even bumpier than expected.

Elsewhere today, retail sales bounced back in April thanks to a sunny Easter period.

JD finally got the green light from the competition authorities to acquire Go Outdoors, while Nigel Keen and Dan Rubel made shock exits from Waitrose and Shop Direct respectively.

Quote of the day

“The British Home Stores experience is salutary for everybody in the sense that, if you fail to keep up with customer demand, if you compromise on quality, over a period of years the customer punishes you for that. We have to rise to the challenge”

– New Fenwick chairman Richard Pennycook on the challenging landscape for department stores

Today in numbers

The year-on-year rise in retail sales by value during April, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. 

Mothercare’s fall in full-year pre-tax profits after exceptional items during the year to March 25.

The number of Go Outdoors stores JD Sports will inherit after being granted CMA approval to acquire the business.  

Tomorrow’s agenda

With no scheduled financial updates, check out our latest episode of The Retail Week as the team analyse the biggest stories from the past seven days. 

Luke Tugby, head of content